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Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Eritrean jurist sees lessons in Japan


Staff writer

Japan's Constitution should serve as a guiding principle for the international community, including Eritrea, which still suffers from the aftermath of civil war, a young jurist from the country said Monday.

Zerisenay Debrezion

"I fully support the (war renouncing) provision of the Japanese Constitution because I believe all nations in the world should strive to attain the (peaceful ideal it advocates), as we are moving toward one nation in globalization," said Zerisenay Debrezion, 26, who graduated from the law program of the University of Asmara, his nation's only institution of higher education.

Debrezion is on a 13-day stay in Tokyo to study Japan's judicial system at the invitation of the Japan-based nongovernmental organization Peace Boat.

The region now known as Eritrea was part of the European colony of Abyssinia for more than six decades before becoming part of Ethiopia in 1952. Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, after 30 years of civil war.

In 1998, Eritrea and Ethiopia again clashed over their border before finally signing a peace agreement last December. The two-year conflict forced tens of thousands of Eritreans to flee their homes.

"The interesting thing I have seen in the judicial system of Japan is the operation of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations," said Debrezion, who has visited law firms, courts and universities in Tokyo.

Such an organization has yet to be institutionalized in Eritrea, he said, noting there is a pressing need to establish a similar association in his country to play a role in developing its nascent judicial system.

"The judicial sector suffers from a lack of human resources, as do all the sectors in the society. Eritrea had to go through colonization and war, which destroyed not only the physical infrastructure but also the potential of human resources in our country," said Debrezion, who is now working as a research assistant in the law program at the University of Asmara in the capital of the same name.

Eritrea promulgated a democratic constitution in 1997, but most of the laws the country has lived under were enacted in the 1960s under Ethiopia, and they are not in agreement with the new charter, Debrezion pointed out.

For instance, although the constitution guarantees freedom of the press, present law forbids private companies from broadcasting on television or radio.

Debrezion said he hopes to join the effort to reform his nation's judicial system in the future.



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